Introduction: How to Make a Survival Camp Site in the Woods

Picture of How to Make a Survival Camp Site in the Woods

This instructable will teach you how to make a survival campsite in the woods without having any personal equipment. Depending on the amount of debris around your selected campsite location, this process could take anywhere from 1-3 hours. You don't need to be a wilderness survival enthusiast to construct this campsite and you won't need any tools but your hands! Everyone that is going camping or hiking should know how to make a survival shelter incase of an emergency. The completion of these steps can save your life, which is why it's important to carry out these steps to the best of your abilities!

Step 1: Choose a Location

Picture of Choose a Location
  1. Choose a semi-level location with fallen debris nearby
    • This location should have a sturdy tree to be the structural element of your shelter
    • Make sure you are not in a low position where rain run off will accumulate
  2. Identify a water source and game trail near your site
  3. Decide what direction you want the door to face
    • The door will be by the tree
    • Face away from the wind and towards downhill if you can

Step 2: Preparation and Material Gathering

Picture of Preparation and Material Gathering
  1. Clear the location of all leaves and debris
  2. Gather fallen debris of all sizes
    • The bigger stuff will be the structural elements
    • The smaller stuff will be the insulation
    • You'll need at least one big log with a forked end for the frame
  3. Make sure the collected logs/sticks are not rotten and are structurally sound
  4. Pile up all the sticks into piles of small, medium, and large length and diameter
  5. Collect grasses, pine needles, or leaves for ground insulation

Step 3: Making the Shelter

Picture of Making the Shelter
  1. Lean the large log with a forked end so that the forked end is against the tree
    • A fallen tree works great as an alternate option (See step 5)
    • Make sure this is set structurally sound as this is the starting foundation of your shelter
    • Your door will be by the tree
  2. Start leaning the rest of the big logs/sticks against the angled log
  3. Cover both sides completely for best results and to shelter you from the elements
  4. After you have used all the large sticks, use the medium sticks and do the same process as above
  5. After you have used all the medium sticks, weave in the little sticks to fill in all the gaps
  6. Place your pine needles, long grasses, or leaves inside the shelter on the ground for insulation
    • Something between you and the ground is essential especially if the ground is wet or cold

Step 4: Weather Proofing

Picture of Weather Proofing
  1. Collect live branches with leaves on them
    • NOTE: These pictures were taken early spring before any trees bloomed
    • Big pieces of bark are also a great alternative
  2. Lay/weave these branches over the outside as if they were shingles
    • The bigger the leaves, the better the results
    • These leaves will keep you dry from the rain and will also block wind
  3. Weave these live branches and leaves until you can't see the sunshine/light from inside your shelter
    • Make sure you have an excess pile of leaves and live materials incase you need to patch a hole in the middle of a storm

Step 5: Alternative Shelter

Picture of Alternative Shelter
  1. Complete steps 1 and 2 but find a fallen tree instead of a live one
    • Avoid a rotten tree, try to find a solid structurally sound one
  2. Start leaning logs/sticks against the fallen tree
    • The entrance will be on the other side
  3. Insulated the ground with pine needles, grasses, or leaves
  4. After you have stacked all the sticks, weather proof by following step 4
  5. This alternate shelter is more desirable in warm/dry weather where you don't need as much protection form the elements

Step 6: Fire Pit

Picture of Fire Pit
  1. Clear out any debs nearby so the fire pit is on dirt
  2. Collect rocks no smaller than the size of a softball
  3. Place the rocks in a circle to restrain the fire from spreading
  4. Gather sticks of all sizes for firewood
    • The fire pit will keep you warm, allow you to sanitize your drinking water, allow you to cook food, keep predators and bugs away, and give you light when it's dark
    • Wet leaves and grasses make lots of smoke, which is a great insect repellant
    • You can put smaller rocks (baseball to softball size) in or around the fire and bring it to bed with you to provide heat throughout the night
      • DANGER: Rocks will be very hot! Use a stick to roll it out of the pit and let it sit a little while before touching it

Step 7: Congratulations!

  1. You have now successfully created a survival campsite!
  2. Now plan on how you are going to get food and water until you are rescued
  3. Make sure to have a smoke signal or some other signal prepared
    • A smokey fire on a sandbar by the river would be ideal but water levels could rise so have another back up just incase
    • Wet leaves and grasses work great for smoke signals
  4. Remember to always stay calm and safe
  5. Stay near the location of where you may have gotten lost or had a injury
    • You are more likely to be found faster if you are near the scene of the initial accident


Basement_Craftsman (author)2015-03-25

Thanks for sharing. One point to make though. When making a shelter using natural material for waterproofing, the steeper the sides the sides, the better it will be. You may have already known that, but when I learned that it was quite the revelation

Thanks for the extra tip! I guess it slipped my mind when making it...

19lawb (author)2017-08-02


Windex (author)2015-09-01

Very asome instructable.

RichardS8 (author)2015-04-13

I swear this is near my house on the American River!

BlueWeasel (author)2015-03-31

Pretty sure Leave No Trace in the Scouts these days frowns on the idea of digging a trench around and away from your tent. Legitimate survival needs are another story, but scouts don't need to be digging moats.

DalaisLlama (author)2015-03-29

Following! Great instructable! Throw some more at us...

JackB4 (author)2015-03-27

I did this at Scout camp, and i was looking up different designs. Also, if you have a trash bag, put it on top, and if you have a nother one, sleep in it. It works if they stretch really well, or if they are the jumbo black ones because dark colors hold heat better

tinkglobally (author)JackB42015-03-27

We're all familiar with black things getting hotter when in the sun, or by a heat source, which makes it initially seem like black things are generally hotter. However black objects generally absorb AND radiate more quickly than lighter colors.

So that black bag will get you warmer in the sunlight, but it will actually cool you off more quickly than a lighter-colored bag at night by radiating away your heat.

In sunlight (or by a fire), black = warmer.
At night time, black = colder.

OneHoleBull (author)2015-03-27

Place your campfire near the shelter entrance to supply heat during cold weather. Make certain that only bare ground is between the the fire ring and the shelter. Place larger rocks or green logs at back side of the fire ring to reflect the heat into the shelter.

J2SARET (author)2015-03-26

Nice. I've done this sort of thing in scouts, the military and in a survival/martial arts group. Two suggestions if I may: gouge some sort of trench around your shelter to lead water away from it and a large evergreen with sloping branches is a good natural shelter which can be reinforced by your method or heaping up snow in the winter.

When I was in scouts the first thing we did after building the tent was to make a trench around the tent for rain "runoff". Works like a charm.

omnibot (author)2015-03-25

Nicely done!
Be careful around freshly fallen trees as they can sometimes stand back up again with considerable force.

BigAndRed (author)omnibot2015-03-27

I have seen this happen when clearing fallen trees after a storm. By cutting away the weight from the top of the tree the tree will stand back up from the weight in the base. It catches people by surprise but is not frequent.

verbatin01 (author)omnibot2015-03-25

maybe I'm misunderstanding what you're saying here. why would a freshly-fallen tree be affected by strong winds more than one that wasn't newly fallen?

Chuckcass (author)verbatin012015-03-26

freshly fallen trees sometimes have roots still strongly attached to the ground along with the weight of the dirt in the rootball can and have been known to stand back up under right conditions. Usually it is when someone starts removing branches.utube it and you can see examples

Pfarmkid (author)verbatin012015-03-26

I am lost as well...

mdeminico (author)2015-03-26

Having made plenty of fires on the beach growing up near one of the great lakes, one thing to note here. Try not to take rocks that have been submerged in water recently, especially if you're going to put them IN the fire. They can heat up, boil off the water, and occasionally explode. And, well, that would ruin your survival rate if you ended up with rock shrapnel slicing up your fancy dancy skin.

wimprascal (author)2015-03-25

Its ideal :)

dflynn5 (author)2015-03-25

Good work. Could save someone some day!

NathanSellers (author)2015-03-24

Well done. I remember doing my wilderness survival merit badge and having to create something just like this. It got pretty cold in the night but I survived. Great pictures.

crownarchery (author)2015-03-24

too good

tomatoskins (author)2015-03-24

That's a great looking camp site! I remember making these when I was a kid. Great first instructable!

Thank you tomatoskins! They are always a great time to make and stay in!

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